Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don't follow their example. For they don't practice what they teach."
— Matthew 23:1-3 NLT
When leaders do what God has gifted them to do and when they teach the truth, we should obey it.
Jesus presented three essential principles in today's verses.
- He demanded that we respect those in positions of authority.
- He also demanded that his disciples (that is, us!) obey God's truth.
- His words show us that the truth is not dependent on a worthy lifestyle in the person proclaiming it. So if a person teaches the truth, we are to do it. Even if the person teaching is a hypocrite, that does not give us the option of ignoring God's truth!
These principles give us the key to putting Jesus' scathing words that follow in their proper place. After his opening words in Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus was not talking to us about our responsibility to our leaders in the reminder of the chapter. Instead, he was addressing the leaders and telling them what their responsibility was and pronouncing judgment on them for being hypocrites. We are not to follow the example of hypocritical teachers, but we are to practice the truth they speak.
Holy God, please remove from my heart any duplicity and self-deception that may exist. I know of those who teach powerful and truthful messages whose lives are not in harmony with your will. Please give me discernment to know your truth when I hear it, even if it comes from those whose lifestyles I don't respect. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.